There are some books that just scream out for certain children. When I walked my younger daughter into kindergarten today, her teacher had the latest Peter H. Reynolds book up on the counter. I love Peter H. Reynolds. He is the genius behind ish, The Dot, and Sky Color (among others). His latest book is called Happy Dreamer and it just calls out for E. Turns out that this book is due to come out at the end of March and I will have to purchase a copy of it at that point.
This beautiful book encourages the dreamer in all of us, but especially in children. E is one of those children who loves to create her own worlds, who is constantly doing some sort of art project, and who of course leaves a mess in her wake. She marches to the beat of her own drummer and happily dances around to the music in her soul. Her older sister and I are more literal, but her path is anything but straight. It is what makes her so special.
Peter H. Reynolds gets what it is like for children, especially for dreamers. He understands how hard it can be to sit still sometimes when there is so much going on in your brain. He understands how it can be hard to be quiet when there is so much to shout about. Poignantly, he gets how challenging it can be for some to sit still and pay attention in school when your dreams have a mind of their own (and can be more interesting then what’s in front of you).
Happy Dreamer celebrates all kinds of dreamers. He acknowledges that sometimes it can be really hard, like when your parents tell you to clean up – because if I put my things away, “there is less me to show” (seriously, it feels like he talked to E before writing this page). That life doesn’t always work out, but that true dreamers must believe in themselves at all times and they will be able to find a way back to their happy spots, because “Dreamers have a way of bouncing back…and moving forward!”
I adored this book. I think this book is important for all of the dreamers our there. “There are so many ways to be a happy dreamer. What kind of dreamer are you?”
All children enjoy fairy tales. They help inspire us, teach us, and entertain us. Many traditional fairy tales have had a main female character who needs help from a magical being and/or gets saved by a prince. As we as a society change, so too have our fairy tales. The newest addition to the fairy tale scene is a series of books to be published by Queen Girls. The books that they are bringing forth are “stories of real women turned into fairy tales to inspire girls to follow their dreams.”
The authors of these books approached me as a way to help spread their message and I jumped at the chance because I am highly impressed with what I see. The main mission of collaborators Andrea and Jimena is to “give girls a positive view of life and help them envision their dreams as possible. This is the reason why our stories are based on real women.
Often times, classic stories highlight the strength, courage and skills of men. Female characters are often stereotyped or one-dimensional: the mother figure, the homemaker, the exotic beauty, the love seeker…We believe that we should be telling different stories to our children. Let’s encourage girls to find their happiness, passions, drive and self-confidence from within. At the same time, let’s help boys to move to a place of equality.”
The first book that they are publishing is called Bessie, Queen of the Sky. This story features Bessie Coleman, the first African American woman in the world to receive her pilot’s license. I was able to read a rough draft of the book and it is wonderful! The story shows how Bessie Smith always wanted to fly, but that between living in a time when flight schools wouldn’t take women and when women were expected to “learn how to cook, clean, and become moms – not pilots,” she was definitely facing an uphill battle. But Bessie followed her dreams, went to flight school in France, and became the first black woman to fly airplanes in the whole world. She believed in herself, she believed in her dreams, and she made her dreams a reality.
Publishing these books is the dream of Andrea and Jimena. I for one would like to see their dream come true, so I have backed their kickstarter campaign. You can do that too by clicking here. I look forward to reading more of their work as it continues to come out. They already have one planned based on Isadora Duncan and one about Savitribhai Phule. There is much that we can learn from these marvelous books. For more information about their books, check out their website.
My children are not overly fascinated with magic, but they are moved by women who break the norm and especially by performers. When I found a copy of Anything But Ordinary Addie: The True Story of Adelaide Herrmann, Queen of Magic, it struck me as a book that they would get a kick out of and I was spot on.
Adelaide Hermann, nee Adele Scarsez, was a girl who never wanted to be ordinary. She always wanted to “astonish, shock and dazzle.” Born in 1853, she lived in a time when girls had a very specific role they were supposed to play but that she didn’t seem to fit into.
As a young girl she answered an ad to become a dancer, but ballet wasn’t exciting enough and found other outlets for her charisma and creativity. She met Alexander Hermann, a famous magician, and the two hit it off immediately. Together, they astounded audiences around the world. When Alexander suddenly died, Addie wanted the show to go on and decided to be the star herself. While it wasn’t done at the time, she knew that she had the skills and pulled off one of the most difficult tricks known in the magical world.
What makes this book so fun is the fact that Addie truly believed in herself no matter what. When she saw something that she wanted, she went after it 110%. She proposed to her husband in a time that women proposing was completely unheard of. She tried tricks that she had never done before, just having faith in herself and her abilities. The one trick that frightened her wound up being the trick she did to convince the world that she had the ability to be the world’s first female magician.Her story is exciting and the book is chock full of amazing illustrations that bring it all to life. Thanks to Mara Rockliff who wrote this book and Margaret Steele who put researched Adelaide Hermann and wrote her own book in 2012 (Adelaide Hermann: Queen of Magic), this fascinating story is being told to a new generation of children.
Thanks to Alyson Beecher of Kid Lit Frenzy for hosting the weekly link-up of amazing non-fiction picture books. I’m always amazed by the great books that I find from all of the other bloggers.
I read way too many picture books, though I know that there are always tons of others that I have yet to hear about. That’s one of the reasons that I look forward to the annual #pb10for10 blogging event organized by Cathy Mere.
Each year, on August 10th, picture book lovers from near and far join together to share favorite picture books. Classroom teachers, librarians, parents, authors, and other book lovers join the #pb10for10 community to share their favorite titles. Stop by the community to share your favorites and to discover new titles you won’t be able to resist.
This year, I decided to focus on books that celebrate the power in believing in yourself and following your dreams. Even as adults we sometimes forget how important believing in ourselves is.
Jonathan James and the Whatif Monster – I can’t say enough about this book by Michelle Nelson-Schmidt. Using rhyming, fun pictures and pretty simple text, this book deals with the anxiety of childhood. What if no one likes me? What if I don’t know anyone in my new class? What if I fall? What if I make a fool of myself? What if people laugh at me? What if I don’t like it? What is outstanding is when, halfway through the book, Jonathan turns to his Whatif monster and says “whatif you’re wrong?” Sure, anytime you do something, it go badly or you could mess up, but you’ll never get to experience all of life’s amazing highs if you don’t go out and try. My full post on it can be found here.
Cordelia – Also by Michelle Nelson-Schmidt is another book about soaring high, no matter what other people say. In this gem, little Cordelia believes that she can fly, singing with the birds and dancing with the stars. Her life was full of joy “until the day others doubted she flew.” She had never before worried what others thought, but now it grounded her and she just trudged along and her world turned grey and dull (literally). But just as Jonathan questioned the whatif monster, Cordelia realizes that no one else has the right to say whether or not she could fly, so she once again began to believe in herself “because what others thought, didn’t matter anymore.”
Amelia Who Could Fly, written by Mara Dal Corso, is about young Amelia Earhart and her dreams of soaring high in the sky. Here was a young girl living in a time when girls were not supposed to get dirty and have big dreams, bu that didn’t stop her. She realized where her passion was and went after it with everything she had. I love the illustrations in this book as well. You can see my full post here.
A Bad Case of Stripes – If there was ever a book that showed how changing yourself to please everyone else causes problems, this is it! David Shannon captured the need to conform perfectly by having poor little Camilla Cream get a bad case of stripes. It all started with the fact that Camilla loved lima beans but wouldn’t eat them because none of the other kids liked them. She worried so much about what other people thought that she couldn’t figure out what to wear to the first day of school. When she was striped from head to toe, she had to miss school anyway. She went the second day, but anytime someone talked about shapes or colors, her skin would change to match it. Her illness continued to worsen until a little old woman convinced her to eat what she was craving – some lima beans. The old woman knew that the real Camilla was in there somewhere, she just needed to believe in herself.
Red: A Crayon’s Story, by Michael Hall, is a marvelous multi-leveled story about a crayon who was given the wrong wrapper. Red has a bright red label, but he is, in fact, blue. His teacher tries to help him be red (let’s draw strawberries!), his mother tries to help him be red by sending him out on a playdate with a yellow classmate (go draw a nice orange!), and the scissors try to help him be red by snipping his label so that he has room to breathe. But Red is miserable. He just can’t be red, no matter how hard he tries! Finally, a brand-new friend offers a brand-new perspective, and Red discovers what readers have known all along. He’s blue! This story is about being true to your inner self and following your own path despite obstacles that may come your way.
Periwinkle’s Journey is a new book by Judy Peterson-Fleming. Periwinkle is a Little Blue penguin who lives in Australia. When she gets invited to her cousin’s birthday party on the Antarctic Peninsula she realizes for the first time that she looks different than the rest of her black-and-white cousins. Her mother gently reminds her that “It’s not how you look on the outside, it’s what’s inside that matters.” Periwinkle then joins another penguin and an albatross on a journey south to meet his family and learn that each penguin has something that makes them unique. In a marvelous way, children are able to learn about 17 different types of penguins and what makes them special and individual. A beautiful book connecting individuality as well as a respect for nature.
Chrysanthemum, by Kevin Hankes, is a book that I return to over and over, so it has a well deserved place on my #pb10for10 list. Chrysanthemum is a marvelous book about loving who you are regardless of what others say and do. Chrysanthemum is a little mouse who, until going to kindergarten, always thought that she had the most wonderful name in the world. When she arrives in school the other children all have short names and a trio of other little girls make fun of her. When they do, she wilts. The story does a great job of showing how even though others might not appreciate things about you, you need to love yourself and believe in yourself rather than listening to people who just like to put others down. In the end, even the mean girls realize that her name is special.
In the same notion of liking your name, I give you The Name Jar, by Yangsook Choi. This story tells of a young girl from Korea and how having a name that others can’t pronounce easily makes her uncomfortable. So when she enters her new classroom, rather than telling everyone her name, she tells them that she hasn’t picked on yet, but will let them know as soon as she does. Her new classmates are fascinated by this no-name girl and decide to help out by filling a glass jar with names for her to pick from. But while Unhei practices being a Suzy, Laura, or Amanda, one of her classmates comes to her neighborhood and discovers her real name and its special meaning. On the day of her name choosing, the name jar has mysteriously disappeared. Encouraged by her new friends, Unhei chooses her own Korean name and helps everyone pronounce it—Yoon-Hey. While believing in herself is somewhat thrust upon Unhei, the process in getting to that point and having kind people in your life can be just as important.
Spoon is one of those books that my daughter loves to pull off of the shelf every now and again, and it is one whose story never really gets old. In this book, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, everyone is encouraged to celebrate what makes them special, not what they can or cannot do. Spoon has always been a happy little utensil, but lately, he feels like life as a spoon just isn’t cutting it. He thinks Fork, Knife, and The Chopsticks all have it so much better than him. A nice talk with his mother reminds him of all of the special things that only spoon is able to do and poses the thought that maybe Fork, Knife and The Chopsticks look upon him with a little bit of envy as well. A book for all ages, Spoon serves as a gentle reminder to celebrate what makes us each special.
Oh the Places You’ll Go, by Dr. Seuss, is one of the most common books given to kids as they graduate from various stages of school. It was not a book that I loved much early on, but when J was younger I read it from a different perspective and realized that this book is about not only believing in yourself and following your dreams, but it is also a book that says that sometimes life can suck and there might be things that hold you back or get you down, but YOU need to be the force of change and get back on a course that works for you. On a lot of levels, this is the ultimate believe in yourself book.
If you hadn’t already gathered from reading my site, I have a deep affection for books about strong girls. But it isn’t just that I like strong girls, I like strong children who dream big and put their all into everything that they do. So when I saw the new book, “Amelia Who Could Fly,” written by Mara Dal Corso and illustrated by Daniela Volpari, I knew that it was a book that I had to get my hands on. I can’t actually get my hands on it just yet as it won’t be available until July 1, but I did get to preview a copy online as this is an exclusive Usborne title (thank you Kane Miller Press!).
This great picture book tells the story of 10 year old Amelia Earhart who knew from an early age that she wanted to fly. She also lived in a time when women were not allowed to do as many things as men, so the book does mention how she admired women who had made a difference and hoped that she would also be remembered as a woman who had done great things.
Through fun illustrations, you can see her early attempts at getting airborne and her excitement at not only going on a roller coaster, but seeing an airplane flying even higher up in the sky. She didn’t care if she failed, because she knew that the biggest failure was to never try.
What is especially lovely about this story is it’s simplicity. It shows how she was an ordinary girl with big dreams. The sheer joy that she gets from feeling the wind in her face and being airborne however she can pushes her dream along. Unlike many girls at her time, she wasn’t afraid of getting dirty or bruised, something we still have to teach our kids from time to time. As the final page of the book explains, she was a nonconformist, something I personally have no problem encouraging.
This is simply a remarkable book. You can bet that I will be getting my hands on a copy come July 1!
I haven’t been great at participating in non-fiction Wednesdays as much as I had hoped, but I have a few more titles up my sleeve. Check out some of the other great titles that have linked up!
As far as our society has come, it can still be challenging to find books that encourage little girls to consider anything and everything in terms of what they are capable of. We love finding good books that also reinforce the message that girls can do anything they want. In honor of women’s history month, here are a few of the newer books that we have discovered that fit this mold. For any other books in this category, you can also find books we have talked about by checking out the tag “a mighty girl.”
Authors Margaret Baker and Justin Matott along with illustrator Mark Ludy have put together visually stunning book with the perfect message that little girls can dream big in When I Was a Girl I Dreamed. The book follows the memories of a grandmotherly woman saying all of the dreams that she had as a little girl – from being the lead in a ballet to exploring the seven wonders of the world in a hot air balloon, from being an artist in Paris to being a big time basketball player. Each page repeats the phrase that encourages little girls to follow their dreams. In the end, the woman turns out to have become an award winning writer and getting immense pleasure from hearing that people love her books, but it never says that she didn’t also pursue the amazing adventures that she dreamed about as a child. The wonderful part is that I know my 8 year old definitely got the message as when I asked her why she liked it she said “You can dream anything and you can be anything.” A wonderful book that we were lucky enough to receive as a gift with an autographed illustration by Mark Ludy. There is also a boy version although I haven’t actually seen it.
Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty is one of my favorite books and one that my 4 year old can listen to over and over. This is the story of Rosie Revere who dreamed of becoming a great engineer. “Where some people see rubbish, Rosie sees inspiration.” Rosie loves to invent things, but after an uncle laughed at one of her inventions, she became afraid to show anyone anything. When her great-great-aunt Rose (Rosie the Riveter) comes for a visit and mentions a life-long dream of flying, Rosie sets out to create a flying machine for her. It hovers for a moment and then crashes and Rosie again feels like a failure. Her aunt Rose, on the other hand, sees her invention as a marvelous success because you can only fail if you quit. This is a great book to encourage experimentation and to remember to believe in yourself.
In the same vein of creating new things, we also love The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires. This is the story of a little girl and her dog who love to do things together. One day, she gets a marvelous idea to make the most magnificent thing. She knows just how it will work and starts drawing up plans and then she gets to work in front of her house and starts to build. She figures that building it will be easy-peasy, but it’s not. She tries over and over again and just can’t get it right. She gets frustrated and then even gets mad. Her dog convinces her to go for a walk and it manages to clear her head and by the time she gets back, she has figured out exactly how to build her project. This book is awesome in its display of perseverance and creativity.
For a wonderful book both about believing in yourself as well as bullying, we recently purchased Stand Tall, Molly Lou Mellon, by Patty Lovell. Little Molly Lou Mellon is tiny, buck-toothed and clumsy but her grandmother has always taught her to believe in herself. When she moves to a new school the local bully taunts her in various ways but each time she just stands up for herself and turns whatever he has said to her around. If he makes fun of her buck teeth, she wows everyone by balancing pennies on them. She manages to put the bully in his place and gains many friends in the process. In the end, she calls her grandma to let her know that all of the thing she had taught her were true. Sometimes it is really hard to be different, but this book shows how believing in yourself allows your differences to shine.
In a completely different vein, we have also enjoyed reading Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio. In this great book, Grace’s class is learning about American presidents when she learns that there has never been a female President of the United States. She sets out to change that by first running for class President in a mock election. The race is between Grace and a little boy and for the most part it becomes a boys vs girls election, but it also shows the boy making popular promises while Grace actually tries to figure out how to make change. While learning a great deal about elections and the electoral process this book shows you how hard work, determination and independent thought can help you move mountains. One voter makes all the difference when a little boy chooses Grace over the boy candidate because he thought that she would do a better job. A great book about elections and a great way to inspire our young girls to be interested in politics and to make changes in their world.
We love our mighty girl books which is why we are always looking for new ones. Here are some of our favorite resources:
A Mighty Girl
What Do We Do All Day?
No Time for Flash Cards
And other great lists that I find on Pinterest – here is my children’s book link
Let’s encourage our girls to go out and change the world!
One of J’s latest ideas for a career is to be an author. She definitely loves books enough. I’ve enjoyed watching some of her creations come to life and see her develop her stories and her illustrations. Last year for her birthday, she received a set from Illustory. I held off letting her use it because, at the time, she really wasn’t creating any stories, was unwilling to draw pictures, and it seemed like a waste of a great gift. Now that she has matured a bit and enjoys the full process, we broke out the set. She was going to sit right down and write, but I encouraged her to use their brainstorming sheet to plot her story ahead of time, and she was all over it! So when I was at the library shortly after and found the book “The Little ‘Read’ Hen,” it was as if all of the stars were aligning.
The little red hen is a classic tale about the virtues of a strong work ethic, the value of working together and how to make bread. The story has been re-imagined many times over. There are versions that stay true to the original and those where the hen makes something other than bread (ie pizza, soup etc.). We even have The Little Red Hen and the Passover Matzah! Then there are a ton of books where they take the work ethic and collaboration themes and use them for something else completely. I had recently heard of “The Little Red Pen” from one of the other book bloggers I follow, but when I glanced at it in the library, it seemed more aimed at adults than kids – it is about a red pen with a huge pile of homework to grade asking for the other school supplies to help her. Then I happened across “The Little Read Hen.” The Little Read Hen is a cute story that aims to show kids the flow of writing a story or a research paper but is still tongue in cheek enough for parents to get a good laugh.
The story is about a little hen who loves to read and loves to write. She gets a great idea to write a story and when she sees her friends, she wants to do it together so she asks the dog, cat and pig to help her with the first step, brainstorming.
In typical little red hen fashion, they refuse. So she goes and does it herself. She proceeds to go through all of the necessary steps to write a great story with no help from her friends. As with the great “Starbawks” pun and her ordering a mocha-cocoa flappaccino, there are other cute notes like “egg pad,” “cooped up” etc.
As with other little red hen stories, the other animals want in on the finished product even though they didn’t help make it at all. Initially the hen doesn’t want to share her book with them, but then she realizes that everything is better if you can share it with friends.
This is a great take on an old tale. We are at the perfect stage to be learning about the process of writing a story or researching a topic. J of course decided to argue with me on how to pronounce “read,” but other than that, this is one that we have been reading over and over.
Those who know me know that raising strong girls who believe that they can do anything they set their hearts to, is a big priority in my life. If you haven’t already checked out A Mighty Girl, go check them out as soon as you are done reading this, as they are an amazing resource for great books. Our latest find from that site in an absolutely awesome book called My Name is Not Isabella.
The tagline to this book is “Just how big can a little girl dream?” The answer? To the moon and back. What is marvelous about this book, aside from the story itself, is that girls can get different things from this story at different ages.
The story is of a little girl named Isabella who wakes up one morning and tells her mom “my name is not Isabella.” The mom plays along and asks the little girl who she is. “I am Sally, the greatest, toughest astronaut who ever was.” As in Sally Ride, the first American woman to go into space in 1983. Each day Isabella wakes up with a new name and a new profession to go along with it, including the ever important job of “mommy.” At the end of the book, her mother puts her to sleep so she can dream “about who she would be tomorrow.”
What the kids don’t realize is that each time Isabella changes her name, she is naming a famous woman who has helped change our world. As a child matures, the back of the book has information on all of these women and definitions of the roles that helped make them special. My 6 year old and I were able to have a conversation about why these women were important. She can’t imagine a world where girls were not expected to go to school and when aspiring to a job outside of the home was not encouraged. We were also able to have a conversation about the activism of women like Rosa Parks and how seemingly small, incredibly brave, acts can make a huge impact in the world around us. This is also a great way to show girls that they can succeed in any job, even those that haven’t been typically dominated by women. It is great that my daughter has no clue that women haven’t been always welcomed with open arms to professions like medicine and science, but we need to keep it in her head that those are great jobs for anyone. Her current career choice is marine biologist, so we must be doing something right!
Jennifer Fosberry didn’t just write a great book for girls. For boys, there is a companion book called “My Name is Not Alexander.” It looks like a great book about men who changed the world.
Girls and boys can be anything that they want to be as long as we encourage them to dream big.